Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Syrian thug crisis

I'll comment on this:

Terrorism thrives on fear, and fear — if left unchecked — can spread into the deepest, darkest corners of our hearts and lead to decisions and choices that, in normal times, would be unthinkable.

i) He frames the entire issue in the patronizing, prejudicial category of "fear." 

ii) There's nothing inherently wrong with making "unthinkable" choices in extreme situations that you wouldn't consider in normal times. Some kinds of actions that are ordinarily impermissible, but permissible or even obligatory under extraordinary circumstances. 

ii) If, however, you let a situation spin wildly out of control, then people resort to utterly ruthless countermeasures. You let the situation get so out of hand that all the remaining options are dire. People like Trevin create the very situation they deplore. By not taking reasonable precautions when that would make a difference, the situation becomes so unmanageable that people will do whatever it takes to bring things back under control. Ethical concerns fly out the window. 

The best way to ensure a morally indifferent response to a threat is to discredit ethical considerations by letting the threat gain the upper hand. Having driven people to desperation, there is no line they will not cross. 

The apostle John wrote in the New Testament of “perfect love driving out fear.” From a Christian perspective, there is no fear in love because love is the primary purpose for human existence. There is no fear of God’s judgment when we love as we ought.

What a travesty of the passage he's alluding to. Here's the verse in context:

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 Jn 4:13-21).

i) What fear does perfect love cast out? Fear in general? No. Fear of divine judgment. Trevin even admits that, but then proceeds to act as if its not about fear of judgment in particular, but fear in general–including fear of terrorists. He rips the passage out of context and reapplies it to something it's not referring to. Not even the same kind of thing.

ii) Moreover, the love that's perfected isn't loving the enemy or loving your neighbor, but loving fellow Christians. It isn't about loving terrorists or "refugees," but loving believers.  

It's unconscionable that a Christian leader would abuse Scripture in this blatant fashion. 

Fear and compassion cannot coexist. The former inevitably drives out the latter.

i) That's a fatuous, illogical diktat. People like Trevin are morally and intellectually frivolous. They take huge intellectual shortcuts. They make universal statements or posit false dichotomies that cry out for really obviously counterexamples. That's not serious ethical reasoning. And it doesn't solve serious ethical problems. To the contrary, it makes them worse. Trevin's intellectual impatience with the hard work of thinking through what's right and wrong, responsible and reckless, is morally inexcusable for a Christian leader. 

Epidemics are fearsome, so we develop vaccines. Does vaccination drive out compassion? 

ii) There's nothing intrinsically wrong with "fear." Humans are vulnerable to harm and death from many sources. Knowing our vulnerabilities, it is rational to avoid harmful or life-threatening situations. 

Should a woman go jogging in Central Park at midnight? No, that would be foolhardy. 

Take teenagers who dare each other to play dangerous stunts. Should they prove they're not afraid? No, that would be foolhardy. 

Does Trevin locks his doors at night? Or would that be "fearful"? Does he leave the doors unlocked at night to prove that he's not "fearful"? Is it "fearful" or "hateful" to take reasonable precautions to protect the wife and kids from intruders? 

Let's consider two kinds of fear:

a) One kind of fear motivates you to do things that eliminate the source of fear. Like developing vaccines to prevent epidemics.

b) Another kind of fear is to live in fear because you don't eliminate the source of fear. Sometimes you let the opportunity pass. You waited until it was too later to do anything effective to prevent it or stop it. Now you really are controlled by fear. 

Already, we have seen a growing backlash regarding the refugees displaced in the war in Syria. There is widespread fear that terrorists are streaming into Europe or America alongside frightened refugees.
What is the courageous response? To close the borders for good? To turn away thousands of families and children who, through no fault of their own, have been victimized by war and violence and long for peace?
It is fear that drives out compassion toward our fellow humans suffering under the weight of injustice and violence. Fear, not courage.

i) How do we define "courage"? Is courage putting yourself in harm's way or putting others in harms way? Trevin collapses that essential distinction. Trevin's policy endangers other people. How is it courageous to put other people at risk? What a twisted definition of courage. 

ii) According to one report:

So much has been made of the flow of foreign fighters into Syria to join jihadi groups like ISIS that it’s worth pointing out who has been leading the far, far larger flow out of the war zone. Military-aged males are at the forefront of the human torrent flowing into Europe from Syria…

And that's from a liberal media outlet. Another report, based on (liberal) UN data, said:

In total, 75 percent of the refugees are reported to be men, 12 percent women and 13 percent children.

Why would we define these men as "refugees" rather than young thugs or looters who invade Europe for the gravy train of welfare state largesse? 

iii) The Bible acknowledges private property rights. OT and NT prohibitions against theft would be meaningless otherwise. That means people are not entitled to just barge into another country and demand free stuff. It isn't theirs for the taking.  

iv) The problem is much larger than terrorism. For instance, you have Muslim men who were raised on a culture of rape. They import that into the host country. This isn't alarmist or hypothetical. Read the news reports, which likely underreport the incidence, due to political correctness. Does Trevin think we don't have a duty to protect women in the host country from an influx of rapists? Likewise, the general spike in violent crime. 

v) Then there's the problem of overwhelming a healthcare system until it breaks down. Again, this isn't alarmist or hypothetical. Read the news reports. How much can a hospital afford to lose before it goes broke? 

Then there's the introduction of exotic diseases, to which natives of the host country have no acquired resistance. Once again, this isn't scaremongering. Read the news reports. 

vi) Even aside from security concerns, the U.S. (to take my own country) has no obligation to open its doors to all the needy, suffering people of the world. We couldn't do that even if we tried. You're talking about hundreds of millions if not billions of people. We can't absorb that. It will destroy the very thing they came for. 

The more your give, the more they take. You create a magnet for endless invasion. Looting a country for everything that isn't nailed down. 

As I've often said, social obligations are concentric. I have a greater obligation to care for my mother than your mother, my wife than your wife, my daughter than your daughter.  

vii) We have no obligation to take gratuitous risks by rolling out the red carpet for Muslim immigrants. There's no duty to invite unnecessary trouble. Why not focus on the persecuted Middle Eastern Christians who are fleeing Muslim terrorists? 

Courage calls for prudent compassion. It is not anti-refugee or anti-Muslim to enforce the strictest standards of security, to ensure that countries remain safe and citizens secure. Such is the way of wisdom.

But that's just a throwaway line. "Strictest standards of security"? He's not serious. He doesn't even attempt to discuss what that entails. 

Here's a description of the vetting process:

The registration process includes in-depth refugee interviews, home country reference checks and biological screening such as iris scans. Military combatants are weeded out.
A DHS officer conducts in-person interviews with every applicant. Biometric information such as fingerprints are collected and matched against criminal databases. Biographical information such as past visa applications are scrutinized to ensure the applicant’s story coheres.

So they interview the applicant. And a terrorist is going to volunteer his true intentions? 

Since when do we have access to the criminal database of Syria, Eritrea, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, &c? 

Since when is jihadism even a crime in these countries? 

Here's a historical anecdote: Himmler tried to flee Germany at the end of the war. He was apprehended by British soldiers. Yet they failed to recognize who he was, despite the fact that he was one of the most famous and visible Nazis in the Third Reich. It was a German captive who fingered him. Here they had the head of the S.S. in custody, and they didn't even know it!

Fear leads to hatred…

A recipe for hatred is taking unnecessary risks, with predictable consequences. If you want to make the general public hate Muslims en masse, just keep tempting fate. We've already had a string of domestic jihadist attacks on Obama's watch. 

And convictional compassion means differentiating between the radical Islamists who would destroy us and peaceful Muslim neighbors who stand with us in deploring such violence.

Where are the Muslims who are "standing with us"? What are they actually doing to ostracize the jihadist element in their midst? 

Christian "leaders" like Trevin Wax bring Christianity into disrepute. Many men read articles like his, throw up their hands, and exclaim: "That's why I can never be a Christian. Christians are such patsies and pansies. They have no real solutions to tough problems." 


  1. "Fear leads to hatred..."

    What is this, Star Wars? I can't take his article seriously.

  2. Good analysis. Wax's reasoning is shoddy, chock full of fallacious arguments, and overly emotive, as usual.